January is always the time of the year when I start perusing the oh-so-many homeschool curriculum offerings that are out there for our next school year.  Every year it’s the same.  I get comfortable with what we are doing and get a little antsy to plan ahead…..because I am a planner and that’s what we do.  PLAN.

It is really hard for me to believe that at this point in our journey, I have been homeschooling for 6 years….officially for 4 but that’s a story for another time.  I have told you before about how I came to this path before and if you’re interested you can check it out here.  But as I plan for our next school year, I thought it might be helpful to point you to some resources that I have found useful both when I began & now that I continue this journey.  Maybe someone out there will find them useful too.  Grab your coffee, tea or other favorite beverage and let’s begin!

Cathy Duffy’s 102 Top Picks for Homeschool Curriculum

This was an invaluable tool for me starting out.  I checked this out from our local public library and loved it so much that I bought my own copy (back when there were only 100 top picks!) and I still look through it each year especially now that my boys are older and their personalities and learning styles are really becoming more apparent.  Cathy Duffy, not only evaluates hundreds of resources each year on her website at cathyduffyreviews.com, in her book she talks about several other things like:

  1. knowing your teaching style
  2.  figuring out your child’s learning style (Wiggly Willy, Sociable Sue, etc.)
  3. figuring out your educational philosophy and goals for education.

All of this is so that you can find the perfect curriculum for both of you….teacher & child.  Later on, she even breaks the book into subjects so that you if you are looking for a Math curriculum, you can go straight to that chapter and find one that works for you.

Total honest moment here, the grids can get a little overwhelming at times, but if you take your time and really read the information you will quickly become more and more comfortable with her codes and be able to find some really great curricula from which to start.

Educational Philosophies

Believe it or not, there is not just one!  If you have been to school or have been schooled, you definitely have an opinion on how this school thing should go.  As Cathy Duffy suggests, in order to find out what curriculum you’ll want to teach your kids, you will need to figure out your philosophy.  This may sound very annoying to some, but I promise the work that you do on this on the front end will save you much, much frustration later on as you learn about and hear about all the “wonderful” curriculum that everyone else is using.

Here are just a few of the educational philosophies for schooling your own children at home.  No opinions here and no rights or wrongs.  Just the facts, folks!

  1. Traditional Method—pretty much like it sounds…schooling like you remember it with texts, workbooks/worksheets and tests…only at home.  The teacher decides the curriculum often with little input from the student.  Often an emphasis on the mastery of material and testing of some kind.
  2. Unschooling Method—(AKA delight-directed education, relaxed homeschooling, or interest-led learning) which is pretty much the opposite of the above philosophy.  This is often child-directed and learning occurs organically, based upon everyday life and the interests of the child.  Very little emphasis placed on testing.
  3. Classical Method—This method focuses on three distinct stages of learning that children work through as they develop, beginning with the grammar stage, moving to the logic/dialectic stage, and graduating to the rhetoric stage close to adulthood. Proponents highly value the importance of reading and discussing classic, living books and the study of classical languages like Latin or Greek.
  4. Charlotte Mason Method—This method is based upon the works of Charlotte Mason, a late 19th-century British educator who believed that all children could learn and enjoy doing it (both indoors and out of doors) along with being held to high standards of behavior & expectations.  Proponents believe in using “living books” (think library books or trade books) instead of textbooks for the spine of their education.
  5. Unit Study Method—combines several subjects together under one theme or topic.  For example, the rainforest could be covered in not only science, but math, geography, spelling, reading, writing and more.  This method can be either child-directed or teacher-directed, but if you are choosing & designing your own themes instead of purchasing already-made units, could become expensive & teacher intensive.
  6. Eclectic Method—As expected, this method is a mix-up of all or several of the above philosophies.  You may find as you continue your own journey, that you like the classical method for one subject while embracing the traditional in another. I gotta tell you honestly that this is us.  We are Charlotte Masoners in 1 or 2 subjects, classical and traditional in others.  When the monkeys were younger, I found it much easier to do unit studies, but now that they are a little older, I find it much harder to do them even though I think they are great and know that kids love them.
  7. Public School at Home—this is simply schooling your child at home through the public school system (think Connections or K12, etc.).  You do not purchase or choose your own curriculum.  It is provided for you with your tax dollars and you are assigned a teacher that works with you and your family to make sure that you are covering the material required.  To my knowledge, you are also required to test right along with the public school system, but you will need to verify that with your organization should you choose this route.

However, one note…..even though you are at home with your kids and are schooling them at home, many homeschool support groups &/or businesses do not consider you to be a homeschooler and will not allow you to partake in any of the discounts or programs available to non-public school homeschoolers.

(Some information found here and here on SimpleHomeschool.com)

It is not my intention in any form or fashion to place a value in any one philosophy as higher as better than any other.  Therefore, for more information on any of these philosophies or more, grab your favorite warm beverage, plug in “homeschool philosophies” into your favorite search engine and dig in for yourself.

Homeschool Conventions

This is the place to hear some great speakers, be encouraged by others who are already “in the trenches” of homeschooling, and to put your hands on curriculum & talk to/ask questions of the vendors who are selling it.  Believe me, there have been many, MANY times that I have either seen or heard about a “great” curriculum that I thought would be wonderful for us, only to see it in person and find it won’t be a good fit or that it was more money than I was willing to spend.

If you don’t already know about the upcoming Homeschool conventions in your state, plug “homeschool conventions” along with your state into your search engine and you should have several options.  However, don’t wait too late for this, as we are entering the season for them to start right now (early spring) through the summer time.

HSLDA (Home School Legal Defense Association)

This organization and their website can help you to figure out how to legally homeschool in your state along with providing legal assistance should you ever need it ……and we ALL pray that we never will!  Be sure to read along the right hand side of the page for all of the many different topics they can help you with…..including a weekly newsletter to which you can subscribe.

Homeschool Support Groups

This could be your lifeline on those days when you feel like giving up or when you feel like you are messing up your kids permanently.  (We’ve all been there!)  You can often find like-minded families and/or activities for your kids to join so that you don’t feel so isolated and alone, whether it be in person or online (think Facebook groups).  If you can’t find any in your area, consider starting one of your own.  You won’t regret reaching out to and enjoying life with others.  HSLDA.org also has a page here for this too!

Homeschool Accountability Groups

This may or may not be an issue for you, depending on the state where you live.  However, in our state I am required to register with the state in one of three ways in order to homeschool legally.

  1. through an organization that fought for homeschooling laws and school choice and is approved by the state legislature.
  2. through the school system, AKA public schooling at home.
  3. through a 3rd option accountability group, which has more than 50 members and is required to report to each school system telling them the number of kids who will not be attending their schools in order to homeschool.

Please do research on your state for any and all of these choices. I can only really attest to what I am required to do in MY state, so please be responsible and thorough.  Better safe than sorry and NO ONE wants a truant officer showing up to their house because of lack of knowledge or detail when all you want to do is school your own kids.  Here would be a good place to start.

This is by NO means an exhaustive list, but simply some things I have found useful.  Feel free to comment with any things you’ve found that may have helped you so that others can benefit too!
I’d love to hear from you and am always up for learning some new things about this journey our family is on.

In one of the next articles, I’ll tackle some of the curriculum that I am familiar with and then you can really dig in.

Happy Researching!

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